Saturday, December 6, 2008

THIS IS ALL YOU CAN KNOW, ALL YOU CAN BE TOLD. WHEN YOU GET TO WHERE I AM, YOU WILL KNOW THE REST: Martha (Sunny) von Bülow, who had been in a coma for twenty-seven years, eleven months and fifteen days, passed away today at the age of 76. (Yeah, shocker: the NYT had that obit ready.) As you may recall, her husband Claus was convicted, had the conviction reversed on appeal and subsequently acquitted of charges of attempted murder with injections of insulin (for what, insulin?) into his hypoglycemic wife. Notes the Times, "A $56 million civil suit filed against Mr. von Bülow by his stepchildren was settled in 1987 with the stipulation that Mr. von Bülow agree to a divorce and not discuss the case publicly."

[Much more on the criminal case here. See, also, Dominick Dunne, "Fatal Charm: The Social Web of Claus von Bülow", Vanity Fair (August 1985) ("A rich person on trial is very different from an ordinary person on trial. The powerful defense team assembled by von Bülow for the second trial so outshone the prosecution that the trial often seemed like a football game between the New York Jets and Providence High.")]

But mostly, of course, my generation knows this story from the endearingly cynical and well-acted 1990 film Reversal of Fortune, starring Jeremy Irons as one of the era's great movie villains (on a par with John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire and Alan Rickman in Die Hard), Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Claus' appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who also wrote a fine book on the case. (In a small role, catch Felicity Huffman as The Angry HLS Student Who Doesn't Like The Case.)

Query for the law-talking folks: he was charged with attempted murder before. Does double jeopardy now prevent a third bite at the apple?
MORE I CANNOT WISH YOU: Two hours ago, I bought my tickets for the first preview performance of the new Guys and Dolls revival. Five minutes ago, Adam sent an email referring me to an ad in the Sunday NYT indicating that the remaining two lead roles had been cast.

Joining Oliver Platt and Lauren Graham, the latter of whose casting, you will recall, pretty much gave me a heart attack, are Kate Jennings as Sarah Brown and some guy named Craig Bierko as Sky Masterson.

Quoting from my comments when Matt first posted about the upcoming revival and asked for casting suggestions: "And all I ever do when we talk about Sky Masterson is suggest Craig Bierko, so I'll do that again now." There is rejoicing in Cosmoland.

(Here's a little holiday gift: discount code DOLLS at Ticketmaster gets you 40% off orchestra or front mezzanine tickets.)
FROM RAPTURE TO RAGNAROK: This is grossly out of date, but I'm curious. Are there two books by the same author (in this case, Neil Gaiman, one co-authored by Terry Pritchett) about roughly the same subject (ordinary people getting mixed up in the deities' end-of-days war) as different as Good Omens and American Gods? I loved the former (a great Douglas Adams impression, which to me is worth as much as the real thing) and really liked the latter, but apart from the subject matter and the overuse of dreams, I would never have guessed that the authors had even met.

Friday, December 5, 2008

SOME CARROT TO GO WITH THE STICK: We've rightly panned Bad Shonda here, but I wanted to note that we also had Good Shonda this week in the form of Private Practice. The three major medical narrative threads didn't weave together terribly well, but each was affecting on its own basis. Particular credit is due to the Del/Naomi/Meg plot thread (I'm not going to spoil), which managed to handle a sensitive topic with delicacy, and showing smart, well-educated, and articulate characters on both sides of an issue that all too often brings folks on both sides of it to the lowest common denominator. Indeed, I was reminded of one of my favorite episodes of the late, lamented, Everwood. Nice work on that one, at least.
THAT'S WHAT SHE SANG:I certainly expect this song from Elmo wasn't meant to be dirty, but yes, I'm seven.

HT: Alan's Facebook status.
BRING BACK ARCH DELUXE: The Times finally answers a burning question for all humankind--"Why the hell can't I get a McRib in NYC?"

ETA: I am informed we have comprehensive investigation pre-dating the NYT.
THE NO SPINOFF ZONE:OK, I could see a Gossip Girl spinoff kind of working (they've denied reports it'll focus on Jenny, though--maybe Erik van der Woodsen moves to California?), but the concept of Fuller House makes me want to run from the room screaming "dear lord, no!"
STICKS (AND STONES) ARE NOT THE ICE'S BIGGEST WEAPONS: They must be kidding -- the Nanny Hockey League has suspended Sean Avery for six games without pay, and is requiring him to go for counseling in the wake of his wisecrack concerning his ex-girlfriends.

Six games? Avery has never been suspended by the league before. Sucker-punching a guy unconscious gets you five games, as does a goalie's slashing an opponent in the gut. Four games for whacking at someone's calf. Three games for decking a foe from behind into the boards, and only two games for launching a harsh elbow into an opponent's nose.

Hell, when an NHL coach yelled "You fell, you fat pig! Have another doughnut!" at a grounded referee after a game, that was only a one-game suspension. But say something catty and uncouth about your exes? Six games.
I LIKED THE KITTY: Mr. Bentley, also known as actor Paul Benedict, has died. Benedict, who for many will always be the Jefferson's occasionally pantless British neighbor, had a number of other memorable roles, including the man mistaken for Guffman, the New Yorker cartoon editor in the episode of Seinfeld when Elaine rips off Ziggy, a hotel receptionist in Spinal Tap, and, yes, the Mad Painter.
WHEN YOU'RE DEALING WITH A STORE LIKE THIS, THEY'RE INSURED UP THE ASS. THEY'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO GIVE YOU ANY RESISTANCE WHATSOEVER: I can't help but admire a jewelry heist than nets $100M in 60 seconds. Not as much fun as the heists in Oceans' N,* Italian Job, or Pink Panther, but just about the only way these really go down.

The comments are open for recommendations on your own favorite heists, real or imagined.

* N > 10
IT'S NOT A TOOMAH: Let's assume for the sake of argument that Izzie Stevens doesn't have a brain tumor, and that "not having a brain tumor" encompasses by reference all the other bizarro medical conditions that could cause a girl to hallucinate the presence and sexual talents of her dead fiancé. In other words, no benign cyst in the adrenal gland that fortuitously conjures up corporeal visions of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, no cancer of the brain's logic circuits, nada. So let's assume all that -- which is in keeping with what Shonda Rhimes told EW's Michael Ausiello a few weeks ago (unless she's being cute and deciding that "no brain tumor" leaves open the possibility of hallucinatory jungle fever).

I am not shy about ditching shows when they no longer command my attention. After weeks of Heroes and Ugly Betty episodes piled up on my DVR without giving me any inclination to watch them, I finally just deleted them and decided that I'm no longer watching those shows. (No TiVo Guilt in my house.) I have never had the slightest inclination to stop watching Grey's Anatomy. But I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about how the heck they plan to resolve the Denny problem.

Just in case Shonda has accidentally fallen into a J.J. Abrams "oh, you mean we actually need to figure out a solution to this plotline we've concocted and aired on national television??" black hole, I suggest that we help formulate an escape hatch. "I see dead people" is taken, but surely there are other routes we can propose. In this somewhat somber holiday season, this may be the best gift we can offer to the hardworking Grey's writers.
FUNDAMENTALLY, WE'RE STILL A NEWSGATHERING ORGANIZATION, RIGHT? As if I needed some other reason to call the judgment of the New York Times into question, sportswriter Richard Sandomir claims that Sports Night failed to provide a basis for caring about its characters. Oh, and apparently those characters are both irritating and unfunny.

I offer no further thoughts on this matter.
TRA LA LA, LA LA LA LA, TRA LA LA, LA LA LA LA LA, BUFFALO SOLDIER, DREADLOCKED RASTA: Via Popwatch, on a favorite topic in these parts, 10 (more) Songs That Resemble Other Songs.
THE EIGHTEENTH ARTICLE OF AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES IS HEREBY REPEALED: Today is Repeal Day, the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, restoring our right to enjoy "intoxicating liquors". How will you be celebrating?

[I have to plug the Dogfish Head Palo Santo, which the New Yorker discussed a few weeks ago. That is one smooth, malty bottle of 12% alcohol.]

Thursday, December 4, 2008

LEMON OUT: A whole lot of revenge plotting and (uncompensated) references to oft-derided national chains on NBC Comedy Night, and it was great. Kathy Geiss, Ken Tremendous and Donatella Moss showed up, and as Alan already notes, this 30 Rock "comes along just in time to serve as a running commentary on all the Fey analysis" currently dominating the media. (Seriously, if the show weren't so good, we'd be in backlash mode by now.)

But most of all? Both episodes were just plain funny, playing off what we already know about these characters' insecurities and desires, and moved a lot of balls forward. Ah, the Mennonites ...
ARE THOSE REAL DIAMONDS, CLAIRE? The Onion AV Club rounds up 15 Terrible Gifts from TV and Film, including Bender's carton of smokes, a Red Ryder BB Gun, and, of course, a Mogwai (which didn't even come with a cup of cursed frogurt).
SO COME ON AND LET IT SNOW: We've previously expressed our love for Love Actually around here, and the NY Daily News today devotes a TV column to complaining that it's not on often enough around the holidays. Sure, the movie has a number of problems for network TV (at least one plot thread is NSFW without major editing, it's quite long, and doesn't have a ton of natural commercial breaks), but isn't it worth watching once a year, if just for scenes like this one?
THE CIA WILL SEE I AIN'T KIDDIN' / HI HATER! YOU SEE ME!! / FOO? FEISTY! / 2.5 MINUTES OF FAME: We're behind on our Top Chef blogging. It's true. On the upside, the neglect has served as a honeymoon from the usual deluge of gratuitous superficial abuse heaped on the contestants in the early episodes, you know, before they provide any basis for deeper interest or sympathy.

Okay, not really. I have some notes.
Jeff - At first, every time they showed the name of his restaurant, another word popped into my head. Now it just pops in there whenever he's on screen.

Melissa - Worst bangs since... when? Ever?

Daniel - There has to be a story behind those beard notches. That we haven't been told the story leads me to think it's either really sad or kind of dirty. Also, "Donald Trump, the richest, most powerful man in New York"? Classic. And when he's ready to "make a frickin' movie," what will it be? "Revenge of Ford Fairlane"? "Emeril Goes to the Gym"? Or what?

Team Rainbow - Yes. That was almost over soon enough. Almost.

Leah / Hosea - Just point the camera somewhere else. Or send Curly the Canned Crab Man home. Whichever.

Carla - What muppet does she remind me of? This is killing me.

Culinariane - Means what, exact... oh. Your name. It's your NAME! I get it.

Tony - "Right Jaws! Some guys are interested in coverages. Some guys are interested in shoes!" Yes, Tony, and the latter belong on Bravo, not Monday Night Football.

That last one may have been mixed in from some other, non-Top Chef viewing.

Pot-shots aside, there are some likeable characters here who can apparently cook to impress the likes of Colicchio and Lakshmi. As far as good TV, Fabio, obviously, gets a gold star for noting on principle that Rocco DiSpirito "is not really Italian." Stefan gets silver for the whole confrontational and snobby Finnish schtick, but if he keeps it up he better watch out for the reindeer / ligonberry / lutefisk snaps. Jamie and Leah look strong enough and real enough to last.

Far and away my early favorite though, is Gene. Up from dishwasher to executive chef and sporting the tattoos to prove it. Love his positive attitude, pragmatic demeanor, ink and sleeveless tees. Halfway though Episode Two I was ready for him to win it all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

MORE RECORDS THAN THE KGB: Nominees were announced tonight for the 51st Grammy Awards ceremony, with the two main categories being:

Album Of The Year:
Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (Coldplay)
Tha Carter III (Lil Wayne)
Year Of The Gentleman (Ne-Yo)
Raising Sand (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss)
In Rainbows (Radiohead)

Record Of The Year:
"Chasing Pavements" (Adele)
"Viva La Vida" (Coldplay)
"Bleeding Love" (Leona Lewis)
"Paper Planes" (M.I.A.)
"Please Read The Letter" (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss)

"Lil Wayne topped the nominations with eight, Coldplay garnered seven, and Jay-Z, Ne-Yo and Kanye West each earned six nods. Alison Krauss, John Mayer, Robert Plant, Radiohead and Jazmine Sullivan received five each, and Adele, Danger Mouse, Eagles, Lupe Fiasco, George Strait, and T.I. each received four nominations."

Take a look; find something interesting.
DESIGNERS! It's a Wednesday night during this extended Project Runway offseason, but Women's Wear Daily has asked renowned fashion designers like Oscar de la Renta, Isaac Mizrahi and the Badgley Mischka crew to design Inauguration wear for Michelle Obama, as well as First Daughters Malia and Sasha. Pick your favorites, and for a bonus, which PR alum's designs for the First Family would you be most interested in seeing?
A MILLION VENTI PIECES: The NYT presents a biography of experimentation, enthusiasm, excess, rationalized recovery, and lingering moderate dependence, all artfully stained into the tissue-like surface of paper cafe napkins.

ETA: Christoph Nieman's portfolio page.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

POPPING INTO FRAME: Three years ago tonight on the blog, we welcomed the four newest cast members of SNL -- Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig. Not bad, Lorne. Not bad. Well, three out of four, anyway -- I'm not quite sure, beyond his Biden, what the Floydster brings to the program, though this list of impressions is a long one.

Also three years ago tonight? One of my favorite episodes in Survivor history, which can be summed up in one line: "I hope you all get bitten by a freakin' crocodile, scumbags." - Sports - Sean Avery suspended by NHL in wake of 'sloppy seconds' statement

WHY DOES THE NHL HATE MEGAN MCCAFFERTY? Apparently, it's now a suspension-worthy offense in ice hockey to joke in front of reporters about other players dating one's "sloppy seconds" -- at least, if you're Sean Avery and your exes are Elisha Cuthbert and Rachel Hunter, apparently.

Avery, of course, is also one of the rare athletes to have a rule or infraction named in his honor, in this case because of his screening tactics against Martin Brodeur in last year's playoffs. (See Bill Simmons' partial list here, starting with the Trent Tucker Rule and the Roy Williams penalty.)

[This concludes our hockey-blogging from the 2008-09 season, in all likelihood.]
CALL ME DETECTIVE TIGHTPANTS: Yes, we're losing a bunch of stuff on ABC, but come spring, we do have premiere dates for a couple of hotly anticipated shows. With Boston Legal ending its 5 season run next week (despite something of a creative resurgance this season), Nathan Fillion cop drama Castle takes over Mondays at 10 on March 9. I'm hoping a well-written cop show with a likable lead can finally knock off CSI: Miami. The Cupid remake takes over for Eli Stone Tuesdays at 10 come March 24.
JAY BELL WANTS TO KNOW WHETHER SOME EXPERIENCE WITH FAME IS A PREREQUISITE FOR INDUCTION IN A HALL OF FAME: This year's ballot for the baseball hall of fame is out, and there are ten new names (weirdly NL-centric, on a quick look). I won't mention the holdovers because we've covered them already.

The mortal lock this year is Rickey Henderson, who is just as much a dick as Barry Bonds or Albert Belle (without the steroids or corked bats) but who oddly doesn't get the old-writer hatred that those two draw.

The guys who won't even get a moment's thought before the writers strike "no," at least in my view, are Ron Gant, Dan Plesac, Greg Vaughn, Matt Williams, and Jay Bell. I think Mark Grace gets a token "ah, Mark Grace, let me look up his stats" before he gets dinged.

Mo Vaughn, who was a very good player for too short a time, won't make it, but he'll get votes because he was good in Boston and everybody who is any good in Boston gets at least mildly overrated -- we'll call this the Dustin Pedroia effect. Jesse Orosco may also get a few votes -- not enough to get him in -- both because he was a key part of that Mets title and because he played so long (24 years) that I had gotten so used to saying "he's still playing?" that it was jarring to notice that he wasn't any more.

That leaves David Cone as this year's lone interesting candidate. He played a long time, won some hardware, and has an unusually volatile ERA+ line. I probably say "pass," but I'd at least listen to the counter-argument.
HIGH CULTURE AND LOW CULTURE COLLIDE:Three tidbits from our friends at TV Tattle that seem likely to provoke discussion:
I'D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY: Yes, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited some worthy new members to join earlier this year--Allison Janney, Michael Giacchino, and Judd Apatow--along with some head-scratchers--Peyton Reed (director of "Bring It On"), Jet Li, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Perhaps more interesting are the snubs and refusniks, which the NYT chronicles. Not invited to join despite nominations last year? Ellen Page, Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, and Saoirse Ronan. And Seth Rogen has yet to be invited. Among the refusers? George Lucas and Woody Allen.
NOBODY SAID IT WAS EASY: False dichotomy timefiller of the day -- Coldplay: kickass rawk band or pretentious wankers? Explain your reasoning, show all work.
CHUCK VS. THE RECEDING HAIRLINE MINI-DREDS: Hey, remember back when Alias was on, and everybody loved Carl Lumbly as Agent Dixon, except that every time Dixon went undercover and busted out his ludicrous Jamaican accent you could see that it was just about all Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber and Michael Vartan and Ron Rifkin could do to keep from dissolving into giggles, because, seriously, that accent? That's the kind of thing you forget until, say, Carl Lumbly comes on Chuck as Casey's spy mentor and busts out, what, is that supposed to be a Scottish? or Tibetan-via-Boston? accent, and you can just see Zachary Levi going, oh, man. So even when the show isn't working, like this week with the African-American/Scottish/Tibetan-via-Boston Sensei, it takes a special kind of show to say "we know we're the ridiculous kind of spy show, and to prove we know it, we're going to hire one of the masters of ridiculous spying to play a ridiculous spy."

Monday, December 1, 2008

MIKE WALLACE, UNFORTUNATELY, WAS BUSY: Anderson Cooper's interview of Michael Phelps on '60 Minutes' this week was entertaining enough as-is, and then they hopped in the pool together.

e.t.a. Tuesday, 9:30 am: Via Matt, Michael Phelps is your 2008 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, and, really, how could he not be? The only reason to pick someone else would have been to be deliberately contrary -- though I have strong sympathy for Jon Wertheim's nomination of Rafael Nadal. (Other staffers' nominees are listed here.)
DEPARTMENT OF MEME PROPAGATION:A Facebook friend of mine has the following "game" as her status, and I figure the results here will be interesting, so go:
  • Grab the book closest to you. Now.
  • Go to page 86.
  • Find the 5th sentence.
  • Write that sentence in the comments.
  • Don't go looking for your favorite book, or the coolest one you have - just grab the closest one.
(I originally noticed it at work, and balked at going with "Unless a rule or statute specifically states otherwise, a pleading need not be verified or accompanied by an affidavit," but we can do better now.)

ETA: Per requests in the comments, frequent commenter Russ has developed the following short story, combining a number of the sentences:
The Fifth Sentence: An ALOTT5MA Story

The girl-rat looked doubtful. A ghostly figure; a specter. Her MTC is $1.2 million of which $1 million is long-term unused MTC. She smelled potential drama, and kept up the pursuit. Defying her father and her neighbors, she sat in the courtroom each day, her quiet bearing lending strength to her husband. Her husband, Edward, attempted to care for the land. He didn't look as though he was on the whole particularly interested in women; or rather he looked as though he was on the whole too successful with women to be particularly interested in them. But he was embarrassed to see people turn and look at him. We always worry that we are copying someone else, that we don't have our own style.

The market rallied on Friday and was firm on Saturday. Business was brisk. Everything around them that had stopped and grown creaky and rusted sprang into motion again. The more she saw the men watching her mother the more annoyed Jacy became. She searched Leafpool's eyes, but they gave no clue about what would happen next, only encouraged her forward with a gentle blink.

Late in the second quarter, after scrambling for a first down, Otto Graham's face was slashed on a savage late hit by the 49ers' Art Michalik. "Don't call the police, please. We'll be right there. Events and concerts are free with park admission."

Envy and cruelty inevitably accompany fame, however small that fame may be. That fact keeps this product from earning a higher rating, but it’s still a good option for normal to slightly dry skin.
AMERICA'S 14TH MOST POPULAR AWARDS SHOW: The Golden Globes are given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press (aka, people who cover Hollywood for overseas media), while the Satellite Awards are handed out by the International Press Academy. They announced their nominations today. A few interesting notes:
  • Surprising love for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which gets nominations for Best Actor (Michael Cera), Best Actress (Kat Dennings), and Best Picture. (The Satellites do the Globe divide between comedy and drama in picture and lead performer.)
  • Doubt does well, with the surprise of Phillip Seymour Hoffman being deemed a supporting actor.
  • Life On Mars (US) is up for drama series and supporting actor (Harvey Keitel).
  • David Tennant and Jason Isaacs get into the best actor/drama sweepstakes, which is all cable (Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, Gabriel Byrne, and Bryan Cranston fill out the category).
  • "DVD Release of a TV Show" is a category, and yes, Sports Night--10th Anniversary Edition is in.
DOES THIS GIVE ANYONE A SHERWOOD V. WALKER TINGLE? If I'm going to name one of my FFL teams (in the playoffs at 6-7 with league-highest points) Replevin for a Cow, I'd better alert folks to stories like this:
A pair of cocker spaniels and their mom are at the center of a legal tussle between a Long Island couple and a Queens animal-rescue group battling over who gets to keep the pups.

No one knew 3-year-old Haley was pregnant when Edward and Mary Watson, of Northport, took her home in August from Bayside-based Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue.

The pooch had an appointment to return for spaying. But two weeks after Haley moved in with the Watsons, they noticed something was wrong and took her to a vet.

A sonogram revealed Haley was about to become a mommy, with a vet determining she had gotten pregnant long before the Watsons brought her home. That's when things got ruff.

Dolores Rodrigues of Abandoned Angels insisted the dogs be returned. The group filed a lawsuit against the couple Oct. 29, claiming the group has a right to make certain the puppies land in a good home.
For more on every law student's favorite cattle, I heartily recommend To Err is Human, to Moo Bovine: The Rose of Aberlone Story, a law review article by Prof. Norman Stockmeyer.
IT MIGHT BECOME ONE OF YOUR "FAVORITES": Microblogging at its finest -- one site that does nothing but track advertisements and signs using unnecessary quotation marks (i.e, a Chinese menu stating add "our sesame sauce" to your dumplings), and another that tracks what tie Brian Williams wears every night. Got more?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

CONFIDENCE, COMPETENCE, AND THEN THERE'S THE OTHER STUFF: A remarkably well-designed leg of the Race, between the Fallen Monuments roadblock and the Moscow public transportation detour, and so the only thing that could screw things up was human error. Hoo boy, did we get some human error this week. Sigh.

You know what I missed this season? Scheming. Where's my Romber, Colin/Christie or Charla/Mirna -- a team that knows how to push the rules to their limits? We've got some unlikeable teams, but not teams that are unlikeable in any particularly interesting way...
BELATED: (I don't know if we need a spoiler alert for a show that aired a week ago and emphatically telegraphs its supposed plot twists, but people seem to get testy about these things, so: spoiler alert - Entourage.) Tonight was the first night that caused me to remember something about which I should give thanks: by virtue of the short HBO season, I am no longer compelled by habit to watch that fable of unrelentingly undeserved success, Entourage. Not since the days of Sex and the City and torture-porn pioneer The Comeback have I so faithfully and joylessly followed a group of characters for whom I have such unmitigated loathing. And now I get hopefully the better part of a year off before I have to endure Vinny Chase defiling Fitzgerald.

But while I'm thinking about it: in this show's mythology, shouldn't Chase be playing Gatsby, except that at the end Gatsy keeps Daisy and maybe her hot cousins also join them at the mansion? Even accepting everything the show tells us is true, Vincent Chase as Nick Carraway seems like abnormally nonsensical casting.
FOG ON HUDSON, AMERICA CUT OFF!: The New York Times helpfully informs its readership that, in a tight economy, food can be cooked at home.